Saudi airstrikes have claimed the lives of at least 13 people in the north of Yemen, Yemen’s Shia Houthi fighters have said. According to the Shia Houthi fighters, Saudi warplanes carried out 12 attacks the details of which are yet to be released. The raids come only a day after the Shia Houthis said some four civilians were killed by Saudi forces. Saudi Arabia launched its military Â attacks in Yemen in November after accusing the fighters of killing two of its border guards. The fighters rejected the accusations saying that Riyadh launched the operations to help the Yemeni government in its crackdown on the country’s Shias which began in August. There are also reports that Saudi Arabia has used phosphorus bombs in Yemen. The conflict in North Yemen began in 2004 between Sana’a and Houthi fighters. Relative peace had returned to the region until August 11, when the Yemeni army launched a major offensive, dubbed ‘Operation Scorched Earth’, against Sa’ada Province. The government claims that the fighters, who are named after their leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi, seek to restore the Shia imamate system, which was overthrown in a 1962 military coup. The Houthis, however, say they are defending their people’s civil rights, which the government has undermined under pressure from Saudi-backed Wahhabi extremists. Civilians have been the main victims of the all-out war which has been fueled by foreign military intervention in the poorest Arab country in the region. The United States has recently launched air raids against several targets in southern Yemen as part of what Washington claims are efforts to wipe out hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters operating in the country. News and eye-witness reports, however, indicate that civilians, including women and children, have been the main victims of recent US air raids in Yemen.
January 19, 2010